Diabetes and Kidney Disease
A buildup of sugar in your blood can do more than lead to diabetes, it can overwork and damage your kidneys as well. Your body is connected in many ways, and taking care of one part means taking care of the rest of them. Read on to learn what you can do to lower your risk of both diabetes and kidney disease.
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What is kidney disease?
Your kidneys filter toxins and excess waste out of your bloodstream. Kidney disease occurs when they become damaged enough that they can no longer do their job. However, there are two kinds of kidney disease. Acute Kidney Disease is when the kidneys suddenly stop working over a few hours or a day. This is most common in people who are already seriously ill and most likely hospitalized.
The other form of kidney disease, Chronic Kidney Disease, slowly develops over years of being overworked and damaged. This is the form of kidney disease that is linked to diabetes because an excess of sugar in the body can be one of the largest sources of chronic strain for your kidneys.
What causes diabetes?
Diabetes is caused by an excess of sugar in the blood due to the body's inability to produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed at birth, while type 2 diabetes is developed later in life due to many different circumstances such as diet, lack of exercise, obesity, smoking status, and more.
While type 2 diabetes is irreversible, it is preceded by a condition called prediabetes, where sugar levels are high but can be brought back down to prevent further damage. According to the CDC, 88 million Americans — or one out of three — are prediabetic and don't even know it.
The connection between diabetes and kidney disease
Diabetes is very hard on the kidneys. Between 10–40% of people with type 2 diabetes will eventually develop kidney disease, and the earlier diabetes is developed the more likely kidney failure is to occur.
With diabetes, the excess glucose in the blood damages the small blood vessels throughout the body. The kidneys are like any other organ; a lack of blood will damage them and reduce their ability to do their job.
Damaged kidneys can't filter blood as well, causing a buildup of salt, water, and other waste. This can then lead to weight gain, which can then further damage blood vessels. It is an unfortunate cycle in which one condition worsens the other.
Diabetes can also cause nerve damage and make it difficult to urinate. When urine builds up enough in the bladder it can injure the kidneys as well, or cause an infection as bacteria grows in the high-sugar urine stored in the bladder.
Lowering Risk for Diabetes and Kidney Disease
The good thing about diabetes and kidney disease sharing several risk factors is that lifestyle choices that lower the risk for one inherently lower the risk for the other. Here are just a few changes you can make to lower your risk of both.
Reduce your salt intake
A high-salt diet has many negative effects on the body. Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure and cause hypertension, which leads to weight gain. Studies have also shown that sodium directly affects insulin resistance, hindering your body's ability to process glucose.
On the other side of the equation, your kidneys rely on a balanced combination of sodium and potassium to pull waste through the bloodstream and into the kidney to filter it. Having too much salt in the blood affects this delicate balance, leaving the kidney unable to filter as much waste as it needs to.
Get regular exercise
Regular exercise positively benefits every part of the body: the lungs, the brain, and of course, the heart and the kidneys. Exercise is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight, which reduces strain on blood vessels and strengthens the heart.
A recent study found that people who regularly exercised were less likely to develop kidney disease as opposed to those with a sedentary lifestyle.
Cigarette smoke is full of chemicals and carcinogens that negatively affect both the kidneys and the blood vessels. Cigarettes can restrict blood flow and cause arteries to harden throughout the body, which can lead to both diabetes and kidney damage.
Cigarette chemicals also introduce several foreign toxins into the body that the kidney now must work even harder to eliminate. And, while it isn't directly related to kidney disease, cigarettes have also been shown to increase the risk of developing kidney cancer.
Check your kidney function with a special screening
If you're concerned about your risk for chronic kidney disease, the easiest way to get peace of mind is through a kidney function test. This quick and easy test uses a small prick of blood that is then analyzed to check for elevated toxin levels. Technicians are able to give you a clear picture of how well your kidneys are performing and if there may be any damage to them. The test results are provided in an easy-to-understand format of "Normal," "Abnormal," and "Abnormal Critical". Should you get abnormal results back you can then take those to your doctor to discuss a treatment plan.